Mark Blinch/Reuters/File
A plug is seen coming from the Chevrolet Volt electric car during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mich., in this January 2009 file photo. While winter brings cold weather and occasional travel chaos, it can still be a time of year to enjoy for electric car owners, Ingram writes.

The electric car winter weather survival guide

Winter can bring an added dose of anxiety for electric car owners, Ingram writes. Here are some tips for getting through winter with an electric car.

Winter is well and truly here for many of us now, particularly in more northerly regions.

It brings with it not just snow, cold weather and a little extra danger on the roads, but also an added dose of anxiety for electric car owners.

Cold weather can play havoc with range, particularly when using heaters, lights and other functions to fight off the cold. It's a subject we've covered on several occasions, so we've brought several of our winter articles together into a single guide.

Winter tips

However little or often you plan to drive over winter, it's always wise to be prepared. 

As a result, it might pay to remind yourself of some tips to help you get through the winter--particularly relevant for those with electric cars lacking a thermally-managed battery pack. Dealt with correctly, Winter need not spell disaster for your electric car.

While some tips required with regular, internal combustion vehicles don't apply to EVs, our post on five ways to maintain good gas mileage could also still be useful--particularly with regard to ensuring your tires are suitable. Many electric car owners already benefit from one of the suggestions--pre-heating the cabin. Plenty of Nissan Leaf owners are already enjoying toasty warm pre-heated cabins in the cold weather!

Winter range

Those same owners, and those who own other EVs without thermally-managed batteries, still need to be careful about their cars' range this winter. It's wise, for example, to avoid trips which might push the range of your car--cold temperatures, unexpected traffic and winter-enforced detours may result in you running out before your destination.

We've looked at whether the Tesla Model S will hold up when the going gets cold, and done our own cold-weather test of the 2012 Nissan Leaf. Without using the heater, you may still get 80 miles. But fire up the accessories, and you'd be wiser to stop every 50 miles or so to re-charge.

Electric car winter testing

Electric cars aren't completely un-prepared for winter, of course--many are actually tested in cold conditions, just like regular cars, to make sure they're suitable in all weathers.

We did just such a test with a Tesla Roadster back in 2010, and again with a Volvo C30 in the Arctic Circle. With the Volvo, we were able to test just how effective it was at keeping its occupants warm, with a small, gas-burning heater--you can watch the video here. There's also a full drive report on the Volvo, which more than proved itself as a winter-ready electric car--it's just a shame they're not making it!

Other cars we've seen preparing for winter include the upcoming BMW i3 electric car, the Tesla Model S, and the Nissan Leaf, which tackling a snowy Japanese test course.

Fun in the snow

It needn't all be doom and gloom--while winter brings cold weather and occasional travel chaos, it can still be a time of year to enjoy. Even if you have an electric car.

How? Well, you could organize a small, local road trip for local EV owners--just like a group of Finnish electric car owners did in Helsinki.

Alternatively, you could have even more fun. We certainly don't condone this sort of driving on the streets, but if you're lucky enough to have some private land, then it may be ideal for practicing your winter car control--you never know when it may come in handy on the streets.

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